Since the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation introduced online cognitive behavioural therapy, nearly 3,000 plan members have signed up to use it.

The mobile-friendly program is provided by B.C.-based Starling Minds. It found those who’ve used the online CBT reported reduced anxiety, sadness and worry. As well, some 71 per cent indicated they were less likely to spend time away from work as a result of using the program.

Read: An in-depth look at digital cognitive behavioural therapy

Michael Kimmis, director of income security at the BCTF, says the organization has funded and managed a short- and long-term disability program for public school teachers in the province for more than 50 years. “In 2018, the cost of providing benefits and associated services was approximately $58 million.”

Almost half of that cost could be attributed to teachers who were away from work due to a diagnosed psychological illness, he says. “We know over time teaching has become more stressful. In a 2017 survey of teacher wellness, two-thirds of respondents reported being always or often exhausted or weary due to job responsibilities . . . and many members know they’re struggling and fail to seek counselling or other support services.”

This is due to several factors, says Kimmis, including stigma and the lack of quality mental-health programs, specifically for members residing in more rural and remote areas.

The BCTF started working with Starling Minds’ founder Dr. Andrew Miki in 2009 when he provided one-on-one counselling to individual teachers attempting to return to work, says Kimmis. “In 2012, we began running several group CBT counselling programs for teachers as a way to break the isolation often associated with anxiety and depression. In 2014, we launched the digital CBT solution with our members and currently over 2,800 members have signed up to use the program.”

The service is offered alongside other return-to-work services available through the BCTF’s health and wellness program, says Kimmis. The program enlists more than 40 highly trained rehabilitation consultants across the province who work with teachers and their medical team to support teachers in managing or overcoming medical conditions.

Read: Analyzing the pros and cons of cognitive behavioural therapy

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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